Birds of the Wairarapa and where to see them
Info Field guide Checklist

Field guide to the birds of Mt. Bruce Forest Reserve and National Wildlife Centre

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Shining Cuckoo (Chalcites lucidus)

Description: A small bird not much bigger than a sparrow. Crown and upper parts bronze green. Underparts white barred with similar iridescent green. Their simple call of repeated two syllable ascending notes is followed by one or two descending notes. Returns to breed (parasitising nests) after wintering in the Solomon Islands. Eat caterpillars.

Habitat: More often than seen in spring and early summer. Easily imitated and bird will often call back. Frequent native forest, scrub and gardens.

Morepork (Ninox novaeseelandiae)

Description: Our forest owl. More likely to be heard, especially in spring when the males call a repeated "more-pork". If a roosting bird is discovered during the day, birds will mob it noisily.

Habitat: Listen for it at dusk.

Rifleman (Acanthisitta chloris)

Description: Our smallest bird. Upper parts yellow green in male, buff-brown in female. Both have lighter underparts, a tiny dagger-like beak and almost no tail. Nest in holes in trees gaining access by squeezing through apparently impossibly narrow cracks. Occupy territory all year.

Habitat: Look for it in mature beech forest foraging in cracks and under bark as it works its way up a tree trunk. "Squeaking" attracts them. The high pitched "zit" call is inaudible to people with high-tone deafness.

Size: 8 cm

Whitehead (Mohoua albicilla)

Description: Small chattering bird (also known as "bush canary") with head and neck and underparts white. Back and wings brown. Often in noisy family groups moving across forest canopy.

Habitat: Can be attracted by "squeaking". Essentially a native forest bird, but now beginning to inhabit mature pine forests.

Grey Warbler (Gerygone igata)

Description: Small grey brown bird. Feeding habit of hovering and picking caterpillars and insects from leaves. White tips of tail displayed in feeding manoeuvre. Female builds enclosed pendulous nest and incubates eggs. Male defends territory repeatedly singing squeaky but musical trill more often heard than seen. Parasitised by and it is not unusual in summer to see two harassed warbler foster-parents feeding a cuckoo chick three times their size.

Habitat: Readily attracted by "squeaking". Widespread, found in established gardens, hedges, plantations or bush. Look for it moving quickly in the canopy of trees.

Size: 10 cm

Pied Fantail (Rhipidura fuliginosa)

Description: A small, friendly brown-black bird with pale orange breast and large black and white tail which it fans frequently in flight. Uses tail as a rudder in its almost constant pursuit of insects.

Habitat: "Saw-like" song frequently heard. Attracted by "squeaking". Rub a piece of polystyrene on a licked bottle in the bush and a will usually be the first bird to respond.

Size: 12 cm

Tomtit (Petroica macrocephala)

Description: Small forest bird. Male has black head and upper parts, with white underneath. Female head and upper parts brown, light brown underneath. A pair occupies a defended territory throughout the year.

Habitat: More often heard than seen. Male song is a repeated " ti oly oly oly oh". Attracted by "squeaking" but approaches quietly and often just sits and watches and may not be noticed.

Silvereye (Zosterops lateralis)

Description: Small bird with grey green head and upper parts, pale buff belly and distinctive white eye ring. Quite mobile when non-breeding and give "chi-chi-chi" calls as they fly or feed. Cause a lot of damage to fruit especially grapes.

Habitat: Often in small flocks. Readily attracted by "squeaking". Will visit bird tables for fruit, fat or sugar water.

Size: 12 cm

Hihi (Notiomystis cincta)

Description: The male is handsome with black head, breast and back and with distinctive white ear tuft behind the eye. A bright gold fringe separates black from mottled brown hindparts. Female is grey brown with distinct white wing bar. The lowest-ranked honeyeater, and often harassed by and at food trees.

Habitat: The enclosure at location 3 on the Green trail. Captive breeding has not been without its problems as birds are very prone to infection.

Size: 20 cm

Bellbird (Anthornis melanura)

Description: Olive green thrush-sized bird attracted by "squeaking". Bell-like calls best heard around dawn often as a chorus The harsh "yeng yeng yeng" alarm calls are heard more frequently in the day. Honeyeaters attracted to Kowhai and Eucalyptus flowers. Compete with but are harassed by s when feeding.

Habitat: Not common in the Tararuas. More abundant in Haurangi Forest, southeast of Martinborough.

Tui (Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae)

Description: In the shade appears black, and the beautiful blue-green iridescence only shows in the sun. White feather tufts on the throat are characteristic and an old name for the Tui was the "parson bird". Noisy whirring flight. Song is a mix of melodious notes interspersed with coughs, wheezes, clicks, and grunts. Clever mimic and can imitate many sounds, such as other birds, telephones, and even a milkman's musical call signal. It is our dominant honeyeater and will drive , and other tuis away from a feeding patch.

Habitat: In winter, commonly feeds on eucalyptus. In spring, Kowhai is a favourite food-tree.

Size: 30 cm

Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)

Description: Sparrow-sized finch with conspicuous white on black wings. Male is attractive with grey-blue crown and back of neck, pinkish orange cheeks and underparts and brown back. Female is mainly soft brown but also has white bars on dark wings. Nest is a neat open cup often in notch between trunk and a branch and is beautifully camouflaged with lichen.

Habitat: Commonly seen in parks and gardens. May be seen in flocks in winter in open country.

Kokako (Callaeas cinerea)

Description: Largish grey-blue bird with distinctive blue wattles. Very poor flyers and they work their way through foliage by climbing and leaping. Haunting organ-like song is not easily forgotten. With only about 1500 birds left in the wild, these birds are part of Mt. Bruce's captive breeding programme. Once common in local forest, plans are well-advanced for re-introduction of this species into bush around the Mt Bruce Centre.

Habitat: The enclosure at location 2 on the Green trail.

Size: 40 cm

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